The Jimmyjohn Boss





I



One day at Nampa, which is in Idaho, a ruddy old massive jovial man

stood by the Silver City stage, patting his beard with his left hand,

and with his right the shoulder of a boy who stood beside him. He had

come with the boy on the branch train from Boise, because he was a

careful German and liked to say everything twice--twice at least when it

was a matter of business. This was a matter of very particular business,

and the German had repeated himself for nineteen miles. Presently the

east-bound on the main line would arrive from Portland; then the Silver

City stage would take the boy south on his new mission, and the man

would journey by the branch train back to Boise. From Boise no one could

say where he might not go, west or east. He was a great and pervasive

cattle man in Oregon, California, and other places. Vogel and Lex--even

to-day you may hear the two ranch partners spoken of. So the veteran

Vogel was now once more going over his notions and commands to his

youthful deputy during the last precious minutes until the east-bound

should arrive.



"Und if only you haf someding like dis," said the old man, as he tapped

his beard and patted the boy, "it would be five hoondert more dollars

salary in your liddle pants."



The boy winked up at his employer. He had a gray, humorous eye; he was

slim and alert, like a sparrow-hawk--the sort of boy his father openly

rejoices in and his mother is secretly in prayer over. Only, this boy

had neither father nor mother. Since the age of twelve he had looked out

for himself, never quite without bread, sometimes attaining champagne,

getting along in his American way variously, on horse or afoot, across

regions of wide plains and mountains, through towns where not a soul

knew his name. He closed one of his gray eyes at his employer, and

beyond this made no remark.



"Vat you mean by dat vink, anyhow?" demanded the elder.



"Say," said the boy, confidentially--"honest now. How about you and me?

Five hundred dollars if I had your beard. You've got a record and I've

got a future. And my bloom's on me rich, without a scratch. How many

dollars you gif me for dat bloom?" The sparrow-hawk sailed into a

freakish imitation of his master.



"You are a liddle rascal!" cried the master, shaking with entertainment.

"Und if der peoples vas to hear you sass old Max Vogel in dis style they

would say, 'Poor old Max, he lose his gr-rip.' But I don't lose it." His

great hand closed suddenly on the boy's shoulder, his voice cut clean

and heavy as an axe, and then no more joking about him. "Haf you

understand that?" he said.



"Yes, sir."



"How old are you, son?"



"Nineteen, sir."



"Oh my, that is offle young for the job I gif you. Some of dose man you

go to boss might be your father. Und how much do you weigh?"



"About a hundred and thirty."



"Too light, too light. Und I haf keep my eye on you in Boise. You are

not so goot a boy as you might be."



"Well, sir, I guess not."



"But you was not so bad a boy as you might be, neider. You don't lie

about it. Now it must be farewell to all that foolishness. Haf you

understand? You go to set an example where one is needed very bad. If

those men see you drink a liddle, they drink a big lot. You forbid them,

they laugh at you. You must not allow one drop of whiskey at the whole

place. Haf you well understand?"



"Yes, sir. Me and whiskey are not necessary to each other's happiness."



"It is not you, it is them. How are you mit your gun?"



Vogel took the boy's pistol from its holster and aimed at an empty

bottle which was sticking in the thin Deceiver snow. "Can you do this?"

he said, carelessly, and fired. The snow struck the bottle, but the

unharming bullet was buried half an inch to the left.



The boy took his pistol with solemnity. "No," he said. "Guess I can't do

that." He fired, and the glass splintered into shapelessness. "Told you

I couldn't miss as close as you did," said he.



"You are a darling," said Mr. Vogel. "Gif me dat lofely weapon."



A fortunate store of bottles lay, leaned, or stood about in the white

snow of Nampa, and Mr. Vogel began at them.



"May I ask if anything is the matter?" inquired a mild voice from the

stage.



"Stick that lily head in-doors," shouted Vogel; and the face and

eye-glasses withdrew again into the stage. "The school-teacher he will

be beautifool virtuous company for you at Malheur Agency," continued

Vogel, shooting again; and presently the large old German destroyed a

bottle with a crashing smack. "Ah!" said he, in unison with the smack.

"Ah-ha! No von shall say der old Max lose his gr-rip. I shoot it efry

time now, but the train she whistle. I hear her."



The boy affected to listen earnestly.



"Bah! I tell you I hear de whistle coming."



"Did you say there was a whistle?" ventured the occupant of the stage.

The snow shone white on his glasses as he peered out.



"Nobody whistle for you," returned the robust Vogel. "You listen to me,"

he continued to the boy. "You are offle yoong. But I watch you plenty

this long time. I see you work mit my stock on the Owyhee and the

Malheur; I see you mit my oder men. My men they say always more and

more, 'Yoong Drake he is a goot one,' und I think you are a goot one

mine own self. I am the biggest cattle man on the Pacific slope, und I

am also an old devil. I have think a lot, und I like you."



"I'm obliged to you, sir."



"Shut oop. I like you, und therefore I make you my new sooperintendent

at my Malheur Agency r-ranch, mit a bigger salary as you don't get

before. If you are a sookcess, I r-raise you some more."



"I am satisfied now, sir."



"Bah! Never do you tell any goot business man you are satisfied mit vat

he gif you, for eider he don't believe you or else he think you are a

fool. Und eider ways you go down in his estimation. You make those men

at Malheur Agency behave themselves und I r-raise you. Only I do vish, I

do certainly vish you had some beard on that yoong chin."



The boy glanced at his pistol.



"No, no, no, my son," said the sharp old German. "I don't want gunpowder

in dis affair. You must act kviet und decisif und keep your liddle shirt

on. What you accomplish shootin'? You kill somebody, und then, pop!

somebody kills you. What goot is all that nonsense to me?"



"It would annoy me some, too," retorted the boy, eyeing the capitalist.

"Don't leave me out of the proposition."



"Broposition! Broposition! Now you get hot mit old Max for nothing."



"If you didn't contemplate trouble," pursued the boy, "what was your

point just now in sampling my marksmanship?" He kicked some snow in the

direction of the shattered bottle. "It's understood no whiskey comes on

that ranch. But if no gunpowder goes along with me, either, let's call

the deal off. Buy some other fool."



"You haf not understand, my boy. Und you get very hot because I happen

to make that liddle joke about somebody killing you. Was you thinking

maybe old Max not care what happen to you?"



A moment of silence passed before the answer came: "Suppose we talk

business?"



"Very well, very well. Only notice this thing. When oder peoples talk

oop to me like you haf done many times, it is not they who does the

getting hot. It is me--old Max. Und when old Max gets hot he slings them

out of his road anywheres. Some haf been very sorry they get so slung.

You invite me to buy some oder fool? Oh, my boy, I will buy no oder fool

except you, for that was just like me when I was yoong Max!" Again the

ruddy and grizzled magnate put his hand on the shoulder of the boy, who

stood looking away at the bottles, at the railroad track, at anything

save his employer.



The employer proceeded: "I was afraid of nobody und noding in those

days. You are afraid of nobody and noding. But those days was different.

No Pullman sleepers, no railroad at all. We come oop the Columbia in

the steamboat, we travel hoonderts of miles by team, we sleep, we eat

nowheres in particular mit many unexpected interooptions. There was

Indians, there was offle bad white men, und if you was not offle

yourself you vanished quickly. Therefore in those days was Max Vogel

hell und repeat."



The magnate smiled a broad fond smile over the past which he had kicked,

driven, shot, bled, and battled through to present power; and the boy

winked up at him again now.



"I don't propose to vanish, myself," said he.



"Ah-ha! you was no longer mad mit der old Max! Of coorse I care what

happens to you. I was alone in the world myself in those lofely wicked

days."



Reserve again made flinty the boy's face.



"Neider did I talk about my feelings," continued Max Vogel, "but I nefer

show them too quick. If I was injured I wait, and I strike to kill. We

all paddles our own dugout, eh? We ask no favors from nobody; we must

win our spurs! Not so? Now I talk business with you where you interroopt

me. If cow-boys was not so offle scarce in the country, I would long ago

haf bounce the lot of those drunken fellows. But they cannot be spared;

we must get along so. I cannot send Brock, he is needed at Harper's. The

dumb fellow at Alvord Lake is too dumb; he is not quickly courageous.

They would play high jinks mit him. Therefore I send you. Brock he say

to me you haf joodgement. I watch, and I say to myself also, this boy

haf goot joodgement. And when you look at your pistol so quick, I tell

you quick I don't send you to kill men when they are so scarce already!

My boy, it is ever the moral, the say-noding strength what gets

there--mit always the liddle pistol behind, in case--joost in case. Haf

you understand? I ask you to shoot. I see you know how, as Brock told

me. I recommend you to let them see that aggomplishment in a friendly

way. Maybe a shooting-match mit prizes--I pay for them--pretty soon

after you come. Und joodgement--und joodgement. Here comes that train.

Haf you well understand?"



Upon this the two shook hands, looking square friendship in each other's

eyes. The east-bound, long quiet and dark beneath its flowing clots of

smoke, slowed to a halt. A few valises and legs descended, ascended,

herding and hurrying; a few trunks were thrown resoundingly in and out

of the train; a woolly, crooked old man came with a box and a bandanna

bundle from the second-class car; the travellers of a thousand miles

looked torpidly at him through the dim, dusty windows of their Pullman,

and settled again for a thousand miles more. Then the east-bound,

shooting heavier clots of smoke laboriously into the air, drew its slow

length out of Nampa, and away.



"Where's that stage?" shrilled the woolly old man. "That's what I'm

after."



"Why, hello!" shouted Vogel. "Hello, Uncle Pasco! I heard you was dead."



Uncle Pasco blinked his small eyes to see who hailed him. "Oh!" said he,

in his light, crusty voice. "Dutchy Vogel. No, I ain't dead. You guessed

wrong. Not dead. Help me up, Dutchy."



A tolerant smile broadened Vogel's face. "It was ten years since I see

you," said he, carrying the old man's box.



"Shouldn't wonder. Maybe it'll be another ten till you see me next." He

stopped by the stage step, and wheeling nimbly, surveyed his old-time

acquaintance, noting the good hat, the prosperous watch-chain, the big,

well-blacked boots. "Not seen me for ten years. Hee-hee! No. Usen't to

have a cent more than me. Twins in poverty. That's how Dutchy and me

started. If we was buried to-morrow they'd mark him 'Pecunious' and me

'Impecunious.' That's what. Twins in poverty."



"I stick to von business at a time, Uncle," said good-natured,

successful Max.



A flicker of aberration lighted in the old man's eye. "H'm, yes," said

he, pondering. "Stuck to one business. So you did. H'm." Then, suddenly

sly, he chirped: "But I've struck it rich now." He tapped his box.

"Jewelry," he half-whispered. "Miners and cow-boys."



"Yes," said Vogel. "Those poor, deluded fellows, they buy such stuff."

And he laughed at the seedy visionary who had begun frontier life

with him on the bottom rung and would end it there. "Do you play that

concertina yet, Uncle?" he inquired.



"Yes, yes. I always play. It's in here with my tooth-brush and socks."

Uncle Pasco held up the bandanna. "Well, he's getting ready to start. I

guess I'll be climbing inside. Holy Gertrude!"



This shrill comment was at sight of the school-master, patient within

the stage. "What business are you in?" demanded Uncle Pasco.



"I am in the spelling business," replied the teacher, and smiled,

faintly.



"Hell!" piped Uncle Pasco. "Take this."



He handed in his bandanna to the traveller, who received it politely.

Max Vogel lifted the box of cheap jewelry; and both he and the boy came

behind to boost the old man up on the stage step. But with a nettled

look he leaped up to evade them, tottered half-way, and then, light as a

husk of grain, got himself to his seat and scowled at the schoolmaster.



After a brief inspection of that pale, spectacled face, "Dutchy," he

called out of the door, "this country is not what it was."



But old Max Vogel was inattentive. He was speaking to the boy, Dean

Drake, and held a flask in his hand. He reached the flask to his new

superintendent. "Drink hearty," said he. "There, son! Don't be shy. Haf

you forgot it is forbidden fruit after now?"



"Kid sworn off?" inquired Uncle Pasco of the school-master.



"I understand," replied this person, "that Mr. Vogel will not allow

his cow-boys at the Malheur Agency to have any whiskey brought there.

Personally, I feel gratified." And Mr. Bolles, the new school-master,

gave his faint smile.



"Oh," muttered Uncle Pasco. "Forbidden to bring whiskey on the ranch?

H'm." His eyes wandered to the jewelry-box. "H'm," said he again; and

becoming thoughtful, he laid back his moth-eaten sly head, and spoke no

further with Mr. Bolles.



Dean Drake climbed into the stage and the vehicle started.



"Goot luck, goot luck, my son!" shouted the hearty Max, and opened and

waved both his big arms at the departing boy: He stood looking after the

stage. "I hope he come back," said he. "I think he come back. If he come

I r-raise him fifty dollars without any beard."





II



The stage had not trundled so far on its Silver City road but that a

whistle from Nampa station reached its three occupants. This was the

branch train starting back to Boise with Max Vogel aboard; and the boy

looked out at the locomotive with a sigh.



"Only five days of town," he murmured. "Six months more wilderness now."



"My life has been too much town," said the new school-master. "I am

looking forward to a little wilderness for a change."



Old Uncle Pasco, leaning back, said nothing; he kept his eyes shut and

his ears open.



"Change is what I don't get," sighed Dean Drake. In a few miles,

however, before they had come to the ferry over Snake River, the recent

leave-taking and his employer's kind but dominating repression lifted

from the boy's spirit. His gray eye wakened keen again, and he began

to whistle light opera tunes, looking about him alertly, like the

sparrow-hawk that he was. "Ever see Jeannie Winston in 'Fatinitza'?" he

inquired of Mr. Bolles.



The school-master, with a startled, thankful countenance, stated that he

had never.



"Ought to," said Drake.



"You a man? that can't be true!

Men have never eyes like you."



"That's what the girls in the harem sing in the second act. Golly whiz!"

The boy gleamed over the memory of that evening.



"You have a hard job before you," said the school-master, changing the

subject.



"Yep. Hard." The wary Drake shook his head warningly at Mr. Bolles to

keep off that subject, and he glanced in the direction of slumbering

Uncle Pasco. Uncle Pasco was quite aware of all this. "I wouldn't take

another lonesome job so soon," pursued Drake, "but I want the money.

I've been working eleven months along the Owyhee as a sort of junior

boss, and I'd earned my vacation. Just got it started hot in Portland,

when biff! old Vogel telegraphs me. Well, I'll be saving instead of

squandering. But it feels so good to squander!"



"I have never had anything to squander," said Bolles, rather sadly.



"You don't say! Well, old man, I hope you will. It gives a man a lot

he'll never get out of spelling-books. Are you cold? Here." And despite

the school-master's protest, Dean Drake tucked his buffalo coat round

and over him. "Some day, when I'm old," he went on, "I mean to live

respectable under my own cabin and vine. Wife and everything. But not,

anyway, till I'm thirty-five."



He dropped into his opera tunes for a while; but evidently it was

not "Fatinitza" and his vanished holiday over which he was chiefly

meditating, for presently he exclaimed: "I'll give them a shooting-match

in the morning. You shoot?"



Bolles hoped he was going to learn in this country, and exhibited a

Smith & Wesson revolver.



Drake grieved over it. "Wrap it up warm," said he. "I'll lend you a

real one when we get to the Malheur Agency. But you can eat, anyhow.

Christmas being next week, you see, my programme is, shoot all A.M. and

eat all P.M. I wish you could light on a notion what prizes to give my

buccaroos."



"Buccaroos?" said Bolles.



"Yep. Cow-punchers. Vaqueros. Buccaroos in Oregon. Bastard Spanish word,

you see, drifted up from Mexico. Vogel would not care to have me give

'em money as prizes."



At this Uncle Pasco opened an eye.



"How many buccaroos will there be?" Bolles inquired.



"At the Malheur Agency? It's the headquarters of five of our ranches.

There ought to be quite a crowd. A dozen, probably, at this time of

year."



Uncle Pasco opened his other eye. "Here, you!" he said, dragging at his

box under the seat. "Pull it, can't you? There. Just what you're after.

There's your prizes." Querulous and watchful, like some aged, rickety

ape, the old man drew out his trinkets in shallow shelves.



"Sooner give 'em nothing," said Dean Drake.



"What's that? What's the matter with them?"



"Guess the boys have had all the brass rings and glass diamonds they

want."



"That's all you know, then. I sold that box clean empty through the

Palouse country last week, 'cept the bottom drawer, and an outfit on

Meacham's hill took that. Shows all you know. I'm going clean through

your country after I've quit Silver City. I'll start in by Baker City

again, and I'll strike Harney, and maybe I'll go to Linkville. I know

what buccaroos want. I'll go to Fort Rinehart, and I'll go to the Island

Ranch, and first thing you'll be seeing your boys wearing my stuff all

over their fingers and Sunday shirts, and giving their girls my stuff

right in Harney City. That's what."



"All right, Uncle. It's a free country."



"Shaw! Guess it is. I was in it before you was, too. You were wet behind

the ears when I was jammin' all around here. How many are they up at

your place, did you say?"



"I said about twelve. If you're coming our way, stop and eat with us."



"Maybe I will and maybe I won't." Uncle Pasco crossly shoved his box

back.



"All right, Uncle. It's a free country," repeated Drake.



Not much was said after this. Uncle Pasco unwrapped his concertina from

the red handkerchief and played nimbly for his own benefit. At Silver

City he disappeared, and, finding he had stolen nothing from them, they

did not regret him. Dean Drake had some affairs to see to here before

starting for Harper's ranch, and it was pleasant to Bolles to find how

Drake was esteemed through this country. The school-master was to board

at the Malheur Agency, and had come this way round because the new

superintendent must so travel. They were scarcely birds of a feather,

Drake and Bolles, yet since one remote roof was to cover them, the

in-door man was glad this boy-host had won so much good-will from

high and low. That the shrewd old Vogel should trust so much in a

nineteen-year-old was proof enough at least of his character; but when

Brock, the foreman from Harper's, came for them at Silver City, Bolles

witnessed the affection that the rougher man held for Drake. Brock shook

the boy's hand with that serious quietness and absence of words which

shows the Western heart is speaking. After a look at Bolles and a silent

bestowing of the baggage aboard the team, he cracked his long whip and

the three rattled happily away through the dips of an open country where

clear streams ran blue beneath the winter air. They followed the Jordan

(that Idaho Jordan) west towards Oregon and the Owyhee, Brock often

turning in his driver's seat so as to speak with Drake. He had a long,

gradual chapter of confidences and events; through miles he unburdened

these to his favorite:



The California mare was coring well in harness. The eagle over at

Whitehorse ranch had fought the cat most terrible. Gilbert had got a

mule-kick in the stomach, but was eating his three meals. They had a new

boy who played the guitar. He used maple-syrup an his meat, and claimed

he was from Alabama. Brock guessed things were about as usual in most

ways. The new well had caved in again. Then, in the midst of his gossip,

the thing he had wanted to say all along came out: "We're pleased about

your promotion," said he; and, blushing, shook Drake's hand again.



Warmth kindled the boy's face, and next, with a sudden severity, he

said: "You're keeping back something."



The honest Brock looked blank, then labored in his memory.



"Has the sorrel girl in Harney married you yet?" said Drake. Brock

slapped his leg, and the horses jumped at his mirth. He was mostly

grave-mannered, but when his boy superintendent joked, he rejoiced with

the same pride that he took in all of Drake's excellences.



"The boys in this country will back you up," said he, next day; and

Drake inquired: "What news from the Malheur Agency?"



"Since the new Chinaman has been cooking for them," said Brock, "they

have been peaceful as a man could wish."



"They'll approve of me, then," Drake answered. "I'm feeding 'em hyas

Christmas muck-a-muck."



"And what may that be?" asked the schoolmaster.



"You no kumtux Chinook?" inquired Drake. "Travel with me and you'll

learn all sorts of languages. It means just a big feed. All whiskey is

barred," he added to Brock.



"It's the only way," said the foreman. "They've got those Pennsylvania

men up there."



Drake had not encountered these.



"The three brothers Drinker," said Brock. "Full, Half-past Full, and

Drunk are what they call them. Them's the names; they've brought them

from Klamath and Rogue River."



"I should not think a Chinaman would enjoy such comrades," ventured Mr.

Bolles.



"Chinamen don't have comrades in this country," said Brock, briefly.

"They like his cooking. It's a lonesome section up there, and a Chinaman

could hardly quit it, not if he was expected to stay. Suppose they kick

about the whiskey rule?" he suggested to Drake.



"Can't help what they do. Oh, I'll give each boy his turn in Harney City

when he gets anxious. It's the whole united lot I don't propose to have

cut up on me."



A look of concern for the boy came over the face of foreman Brock.

Several times again before their parting did he thus look at his

favorite. They paused at Harper's for a day to attend to some matters,

and when Drake was leaving this place one of the men said to him: "We'll

stand by you." But from his blithe appearance and talk as the slim boy

journeyed to the Malheur River and Headquarter ranch, nothing seemed

to be on his mind. Oregon twinkled with sun and fine white snow. They

crossed through a world of pines and creviced streams and exhilarating

silence. The little waters fell tinkling through icicles in the

loneliness of the woods, and snowshoe rabbits dived into the brush. East

Oregon, the Owyhee and the Malheur country, the old trails of General

Crook, the willows by the streams, the open swales, the high woods

where once Buffalo Horn and Chief E-egante and O-its the medicine-man

prospered, through this domain of war and memories went Bolles the

school-master with Dean Drake and Brock. The third noon from Harper's

they came leisurely down to the old Malheur Agency, where once the

hostile Indians had drawn pictures on the door, and where Castle Rock

frowned down unchanged.



"I wish I was going to stay here with you," said Brock to Drake. "By

Indian Creek you can send word to me quicker than we've come."



"Why, you're an old bat!" said the boy to his foreman, and clapped him

farewell on the shoulder.



Brock drove away, thoughtful. He was not a large man. His face was

clean-cut, almost delicate. He had a well-trimmed, yellow mustache, and

it was chiefly in his blue eye and lean cheek-bone that the frontiersman

showed. He loved Dean Drake more than he would ever tell, even to

himself.



The young superintendent set at work to ranch-work this afternoon of

Brock's leaving, and the buccaroos made his acquaintance one by one and

stared at him. Villany did not sit outwardly upon their faces; they were

not villains; but they stared at the boy sent to control them, and they

spoke together, laughing. Drake took the head of the table at supper,

with Bolles on his right. Down the table some silence, some staring,

much laughing went on--the rich brute laugh of the belly untroubled by

the brain. Sam, the Chinaman, rapid and noiseless, served the dishes.



"What is it?" said a buccaroo.



"Can it bite?" said another.



"If you guess what it is, you can have it," said a third.



"It's meat," remarked Drake, incisively, helping himself; "and tougher

than it looks."



The brute laugh rose from the crowd and fell into surprised silence; but

no rejoinder came, and they ate their supper somewhat thoughtfully. The

Chinaman's quick, soft eye had glanced at Dean Drake when they laughed.

He served his dinner solicitously. In his kitchen that evening he and

Bolles unpacked the good things--the olives, the dried fruits, the

cigars--brought by the new superintendent for Christmas; and finding

Bolles harmless, like his gentle Asiatic self, Sam looked cautiously

about and spoke:



"You not know why they laugh," said he. "They not talk about my meat

then. They mean new boss, Misser Dlake. He velly young boss."



"I think," said Bolles, "Mr. Drake understood their meaning, Sam. I have

noticed that at times he expresses himself peculiarly. I also think they

understood his meaning."



The Oriental pondered. "Me like Misser Dlake," said he. And drawing

quite close, he observed, "They not nice man velly much."



Next day and every day "Misser Dlake" went gayly about his business, at

his desk or on his horse, vigilant, near and far, with no sign save a

steadier keenness in his eye. For the Christmas dinner he provided

still further sending to the Grande Ronde country for turkeys and other

things. He won the heart of Bolles by lending him a good horse; but the

buccaroos, though they were boisterous over the coming Christmas joy,

did not seem especially grateful. Drake, however, kept his worries to

himself.



"This thing happens anywhere," he said one night in the office to

Bolles, puffing a cigar. "I've seen a troop of cavalry demoralize itself

by a sort of contagion from two or three men."



"I think it was wicked to send you here by yourself," blurted Bolles.



"Poppycock! It's the chance of my life, and I'll jam her through or

bust."



"I think they have decided you are getting turkeys because you are

afraid of them," said Bolles.



"Why, of course! But d' you figure I'm the man to abandon my Christmas

turkey because my motives for eating it are misconstrued?"



Dean Drake smoked for a while; then a knock came at the door. Five

buccaroos entered and stood close, as is the way with the guilty who

feel uncertain.



"We were thinking as maybe you'd let us go over to town," said Half-past

Full, the spokesman.



"When?"



"Oh, any day along this week."



"Can't spare you till after Christmas."



"Maybe you'll not object to one of us goin'?"



"You'll each have your turn after this week."



A slight pause followed. Then Half-past Full said: "What would you do if

I went, anyway?"



"Can't imagine," Drake answered, easily. "Go, and I'll be in a position

to inform you."



The buccaroo dropped his stolid bull eyes, but raised them again and

grinned. "Well, I'm not particular about goin' this week, boss."



"That's not my name," said Drake, "but it's what I am."



They stood a moment. Then they shuffled out. It was an orderly

retreat--almost.



Drake winked over to Bolles. "That was a graze," said he, and smoked for

a while. "They'll not go this time. Question is, will they go next?"





III



Drake took a fresh cigar, and threw his legs over the chair arm.



"I think you smoke too much," said Bolles, whom three days had made

familiar and friendly.



"Yep. Have to just now. That's what! as Uncle Pasco would say. They are

a half-breed lot, though," the boy continued, returning to the buccaroos

and their recent visit. "Weaken in the face of a straight bluff, you

see, unless they get whiskey-courageous. And I've called 'em down on

that."



"Oh!" said Bolles, comprehending.



"Didn't you see that was their game? But he will not go after it."



"The flesh is all they seem to understand," murmured Bolles.



Half-past Full did not go to Harney City for the tabooed whiskey, nor

did any one. Drake read his buccaroos like the children that they were.

After the late encounter of grit, the atmosphere was relieved of storm.

The children, the primitive, pagan, dangerous children, forgot all about

whiskey, and lusted joyously for Christmas. Christmas was coming! No

work! A shooting-match! A big feed! Cheerfulness bubbled at the Malheur

Agency. The weather itself was in tune. Castle Rock seemed no longer

to frown, but rose into the shining air, a mass of friendly strength.

Except when a rare sledge or horseman passed, Mr. Bolles's journeys to

the school were all to show it was not some pioneer colony in a new,

white, silent world that heard only the playful shouts and songs of the

buccaroos. The sun overhead and the hard-crushing snow underfoot filled

every one with a crisp, tingling hilarity.



Before the sun first touched Castle Rock on the morning of the feast

they were up and in high feather over at the bunk-house. They raced

across to see what Sam was cooking; they begged and joyfully swallowed

lumps of his raw plum-pudding. "Merry Christmas!" they wished him, and

"Melly Clismas!" said he to them. They played leap-frog over by the

stable, they put snow down each other's backs. Their shouts rang round

corners; it was like boys let out of school. When Drake gathered them

for the shooting-match, they cheered him; when he told them there were

no prizes, what did they care for prizes? When he beat them all the

first round, they cheered him again. Pity he hadn't offered prizes! He

wasn't a good business man, after all!



The rounds at the target proceeded through the forenoon, Drake the

acclaimed leader; and the Christmas sun drew to mid-sky. But as its

splendor in the heavens increased, the happy shoutings on earth began

to wane. The body was all that the buccaroos knew; well, the flesh comes

pretty natural to all of us--and who had ever taught these men about

the spirit? The further they were from breakfast the nearer they were

to dinner; yet the happy shootings waned! The spirit is a strange thing.

Often it dwells dumb in human clay, then unexpectedly speaks out of the

clay's darkness.



It was no longer a crowd Drake had at the target. He became aware that

quietness had been gradually coming over the buccaroos. He looked, and

saw a man wandering by himself in the lane. Another leaned by the stable

corner, with a vacant face. Through the windows of the bunk-house

he could see two or three on their beds. The children were tired of

shouting. Drake went in-doors and threw a great log on the fire. It

blazed up high with sparks, and he watched it, although the sun shown

bright on the window-sill. Presently he noticed that a man had come in

and taken a chair. It was Half-past Full, and with his boots stretched

to the warmth, he sat gazing into the fire. The door opened and another

buckaroo entered and sat off in a corner. He had a bundle of old

letters, smeared sheets tied trite a twisted old ribbon. While his

large, top-toughened fingers softly loosened the ribbon, he sat with his

back to the room and presently began to read the letters over, one

by one. Most of the men came in before long, and silently joined the

watchers round the treat fireplace. Drake threw another log on, and in

a short time this, too, broke into ample flame. The silence was long;

a slice of shadow had fallen across the window-sill, when a young man

spoke, addressing the logs:



"I skinned a coon in San Saba, Texas, this day a year."



At the sound of a voice, some of their eyes turned on the speaker, but

turned back to the fire again. The spirit had spoken from the clay,

aloud; and the clay was uncomfortable at hearing it.



After some more minutes a neighbor whispered to a neighbor, "Play you a

game of crib."



The man nodded, stole over to where the board was, and brought it across

the floor on creaking tip-toe. They set it between them, and now and

then the cards made a light sound in the room.



"I treed that coon on Honey," said the young man, after a while--"Honey

Creek, San Saba. Kind o' dry creek. Used to flow into Big Brady when it

rained."



The flames crackled on, the neighbors still played their cribbage. Still

was the day bright, but the shrinking wedge of sun had gone entirely

from the window-sill. Half-past Full had drawn from his pocket a

mouthorgan, breathing half-tunes upon it; in the middle of "Suwanee

River" the man who sat in the corner laid the letter he was beginning

upon the heap on his knees and read no more. The great genial logs lay

glowing, burning; from the fresher one the flames flowed and forked;

along the embered surface of the others ran red and blue shivers of

iridescence. With legs and arms crooked and sprawled, the buccaroos

brooded, staring into the glow with seldom-winking eyes, while deep

inside the clay the spirit spoke quietly. Christmas Day was passing,

but the sun shone still two good hours high. Outside, over the snow

and pines, it was only in the deeper folds of the hills that the blue

shadows had come; the rest of the world was gold and silver; and from

far across that silence into this silence by the fire came a tinkling

stir of sound. Sleighbells it was, steadily coming, too early for Bolles

to be back from his school festival.



The toy-thrill of the jingling grew clear and sweet, a spirit of

enchantment that did not wake the stillness, but cast it into a deeper

dream. The bells came near the door and stopped, and then Drake opened

it.



"Hello, Uncle Pasco!" said he. "Thought you were Santa Claus."



"Santa Claus! H'm. Yes. That's what. Told you maybe I'd come."



"So you did. Turkey is due in--let's see--ninety minutes. Here, boys!

some of you take Uncle Pasco's horse."



"No, no, I won't. You leave me alone. I ain't stoppin' here. I ain't

hungry. I just grubbed at the school. Sleepin' at Missouri Pete's

to-night. Got to make the railroad tomorrow." The old man stopped his

precipitate statements. He sat in his sledge deeply muffled, blinking

at Drake and the buccaroos, who had strolled out to look at him, "Done a

big business this trip," said he. "Told you I would. Now if you was only

givin' your children a Christmas-tree like that I seen that feller yer

schoolmarm doin' just now--hee-hee!" From his blankets he revealed the

well-known case. "Them things would shine on a tree," concluded Uncle

Pasco.



"Hang 'em in the woods, then," said Drake.



"Jewelry, is it?" inquired the young Texas man.



Uncle Pasco whipped open his case. "There you are," said he. "All what's

left. That ring'll cost you a dollar."



"I've a dollar somewheres," said the young man, fumbling.



Half-past Full, on the other side of the sleigh, stood visibly

fascinated by the wares he was given a skilful glimpse of down among the

blankets. He peered and he pondered while Uncle Pasco glibly spoke to

him.



"Scatter your truck out plain!" the buccaroo exclaimed, suddenly. "I'm

not buying in the dark. Come over to the bunk-house and scatter."



"Brass will look just the same anywhere," said Drake.



"Brass!" screamed Uncle. "Brass your eye!"



But the buccaroos, plainly glad for distraction, took the woolly old

scolding man with them. Drake shouted that if getting cheated cheered

them, by all means to invest heavily, and he returned alone to his fire,

where Bolles soon joined him. They waited, accordingly, and by-and-by

the sleigh-bells jingled again. As they had come out of the silence,

so did they go into it, their little silvery tinkle dancing away in the

distance, faint and fainter, then, like a breath, gone.



Uncle Pasco's trinkets had audibly raised the men's spirits. They

remained in the bunkhouse, their laughter reaching Drake and Bolles more

and more. Sometimes they would scuffle and laugh loudly.



"Do you imagine it's more leap-frog?" inquired the school-master.



"Gambling," said Drake. "They'll keep at it now till one of them wins

everything the rest have bought."



"Have they been lively ever since morning?"



"Had a reaction about noon," said Drake. "Regular home-sick spell. I

felt sorry for 'em."



"They seem full of reaction," said Bolles. "Listen to that!"



It was now near four o'clock, and Sam came in, announcing dinner.



"All ready," said the smiling Chinaman.



"Pass the good word to the bunk-house," said Drake, "if they can hear

you."



Sam went across, and the shouting stopped. Then arose a thick volley of

screams and cheers.



"That don't sound right," said Drake, leaping to his feet. In the next

instant the Chinaman, terrified, returned through the open door. Behind

him lurched Half-past Full, and stumbled into the room. His boot caught,

and he pitched, but saved himself and stood swaying, heavily looking at

Drake. The hair curled dense over his bull head, his mustache was spread

with his grin, the light of cloddish humor and destruction burned in his

big eye. The clay had buried the spirit like a caving pit.



"Twas false jewelry all right!" he roared, at the top of his voice. "A

good old jimmyjohn full, boss. Say, boss, goin' to run our jimmyjohn off

the ranch? Try it on, kid. Come over and try it on!" The bull beat on

the table.



Dean Drake had sat quickly down in his chair, his gray eye upon the

hulking buccaroo. Small and dauntless he sat, a sparrow-hawk caught in a

trap, and game to the end--whatever end.



"It's a trifle tardy to outline any policy about your demijohn," said

he, seriously. "You folks had better come in and eat before you're

beyond appreciating."



"Ho, we'll eat your grub, boss. Sam's cooking goes." The buccaroo

lurched out and away to the bunk-house, where new bellowing was set up.



"I've got to carve this turkey, friend," said the boy to Bolles.



"I'll do my best to help eat it," returned the school-master, smiling.



"Misser Dlake," said poor Sam, "I solly you. I velly solly you."





IV



"Reserve your sorrow, Sam," said Dean Drake. "Give us your soup for a

starter. Come," he said to Bolles. "Quick."



He went into the dining-room, prompt in his seat at the head of the

table, with the school-master next to him.



"Nice man, Uncle Pasco," he continued. "But his time is not now. We have

nothing to do for the present but sit like every day and act perfectly

natural."



"I have known simpler tasks," said Mr. Bolles, "but I'll begin by

spreading this excellently clean napkin."



"You're no schoolmarm!" exclaimed Drake; "you please me."



"The worst of a bad thing," said the mild Bolles, "is having time to

think about it, and we have been spared that."



"Here they come," said Drake.



They did come. But Drake's alert strategy served the end he had tried

for. The drunken buccaroos swarmed disorderly to the door and halted.

Once more the new superintendent's ways took them aback. Here was the

decent table with lights serenely burning, with unwonted good things

arranged upon it--the olives, the oranges, the preserves. Neat as parade

drill were the men's places, all the cups and forks symmetrical along

the white cloth. There, waiting his guests at the far end, sat the slim

young boss talking with his boarder, Mr. Bolles, the parts in their

smooth hair going with all the rest of this propriety. Even the daily

tin dishes were banished in favor of crockery.



"Bashful of Sam's napkins, boys?" said the boss. "Or is it the

bald-headed china?"



At this bidding they came in uncertainly. Their whiskey was ashamed

inside. They took their seats, glancing across at each other in a

transient silence, drawing their chairs gingerly beneath them. Thus

ceremony fell unexpected upon the gathering, and for a while they

swallowed in awkwardness what the swift, noiseless Sam brought them.

He in a long white apron passed and re-passed with his things from his

kitchen, doubly efficient and civil under stress of anxiety for

his young master. In the pauses of his serving he watched from the

background, with a face that presently caught the notice of one of them.



"Smile, you almond-eyed highbinder," said the buccaroo. And the Chinaman

smiled his best.



"I've forgot something," said Half-past Full, rising. "Don't let 'em

skip a course on me." Half-past left the room.



"That's what I have been hoping for," said Drake to Bolles.



Half-past returned presently and caught Drake's look of expectancy. "Oh

no, boss," said the buccaroo, instantly, from the door. "You're on to

me, but I'm on to you." He slammed the door with ostentation and dropped

with a loud laugh into his seat.



"First smart thing I've known him do," said Drake to Bolles. "I am

disappointed."



Two buccaroos next left the room together.



"They may get lost in the snow," said the humorous Half-past. "I'll just

show 'em the trail." Once more he rose from the dinner and went out.



"Yes, he knew too much to bring it in here," said Drake to Bolles. "He

knew none but two or three would dare drink, with me looking on."



"Don't you think he is afraid to bring it in the same room with you at

all?" Bolles suggested.



"And me temperance this season? Now, Bolles, that's unkind."



"Oh, dear, that is not at all what--"



"I know what you meant, Bolles. I was only just making a little merry

over this casualty. No, he don't mind me to that extent, except when

he's sober. Look at him!"



Half-past was returning with his friends. Quite evidently they had all

found the trail.



"Uncle Pasco is a nice old man!" pursued Drake. "I haven't got my gun

on. Have you?"



"Yes," said Bolles, but with a sheepish swerve of the eye.



Drake guessed at once. "Not Baby Bunting? Oh, Lord! and I promised

to give you an adult weapon!--the kind they're wearing now by way of

full-dress."



"Talkin' secrets, boss?" said Half-past Full.



The well-meaning Sam filled his cup, and this proceeding shifted the

buccaroo's truculent attention.



"What's that mud?" he demanded.



"Coffee," said Sam, politely.



The buccaroo swept his cup to the ground, and the next man howled

dismay.



"Burn your poor legs?" said Half-past. He poured his glass over the

victim. They wrestled, the company pounded the table, betting hoarsely,

until Half-past went to the floor, and his plate with him.



"Go easy," said Drake. "You're smashing the company's property."



"Bald-headed china for sure, boss!" said a second of the brothers

Drinker, and dropped a dish.



"I'll merely tell you," said Drake, "that the company don't pay for this

china twice."



"Not twice?" said Half-past Full, smashing some more. "How about

thrice?"



"Want your money now?" another inquired.



A riot of banter seized upon all of them, and they began to laugh and

destroy.



"How much did this cost?" said one, prying askew his three-tined fork.



"How much did you cost yourself?" said another to Drake.



"What, our kid boss? Two bits, I guess."



"Hyas markook. Too dear!"



They bawled at their own jokes, loud and ominous; threat sounded beneath

their lightest word, the new crashes of china that they threw on the

floor struck sharply through the foreboding din of their mirth. The

spirit that Drake since his arrival had kept under in them day by day,

but not quelled, rose visibly each few succeeding minutes, swelling

upward as the tide does. Buoyed up on the whiskey, it glittered in their

eyes and yelled mutinously in their voices.



"I'm waiting all orders," said Bolles to Drake.



"I haven't any," said Drake. "New ones, that is. We've sat down to see

this meal out. Got to keep sitting."



He leaned back, eating deliberately, saying no more to the buccaroos;

thus they saw he would never leave the room till they did. As he had

taken his chair the first, so was the boy bound to quit it the last. The

game of prying fork-tines staled on them one by one, and they took to

songs, mostly of love and parting. With the red whiskey in their eyes

they shouted plaintively of sweethearts, and vows, and lips, and meeting

in the wild wood. From these they went to ballads of the cattle-trail

and the Yuba River, and so inevitably worked to the old coast song, made

of three languages, with its verses rhymed on each year since the first

beginning. Tradition laid it heavy upon each singer in his turn to keep

the pot a-boiling by memory or by new invention, and the chant went

forward with hypnotic cadence to a tune of larkish, ripping gayety. He

who had read over his old stained letters in the homesick afternoon had

waked from such dreaming and now sang:



"Once jes' onced in the year o' 49,

I met a fancy thing by the name o' Keroline;

I never could persuade her for to leave me be;

She went and she took and she married me."



His neighbor was ready with an original contribution:



"Once, once again in the year o' '64,

By the city of Whatcom down along the shore--

I never could persuade them for to leave me be--

A Siwash squaw went and took and married me."



"What was you doin' between all them years?" called Half-past Full.



"Shut yer mouth," said the next singer:



"Once, once again in the year o' 71

('Twas the suddenest deed that I ever done)--

I never could persuade them for to leave me be--

A rich banker's daughter she took and married me."



"This is looking better," said Bolles to Drake.



"Don't you believe it," said the boy.



Ten or a dozen years were thus sung.



"I never could persuade them for to leave me be" tempestuously brought

down the chorus and the fists, until the drunkards could sit no more,

but stood up to sing, tramping the tune heavily together. Then, just as

the turn came round to Drake himself, they dashed their chairs down and

herded out of the room behind Half-past Full, slamming the door.



Drake sat a moment at the head of his Christmas dinner, the fallen

chairs, the lumpy wreck. Blood charged his face from his hair to his

collar. "Let's smoke," said he. They went from the dinner through the

room of the great fireplace to his office beyond.



"Have a mild one?" he said to the schoolmaster.



"No, a strong one to-night, if you please." And Bolles gave his mild

smile.



"You do me good now and then," said Drake.



"Dear me," said the teacher, "I have found it the other way."



All the rooms fronted on the road with doors--the old-time agency doors,

where the hostiles had drawn their pictures in the days before peace had

come to reign over this country. Drake looked out, because the singing

had stopped and they were very quiet in the bunk-house. He saw the

Chinaman steal from his kitchen.



"Sam is tired of us," he said to Bolles.



"Tired?"



"Running away, I guess. I'd prefer a new situation myself. That's where

you're deficient, Bolles. Only got sense enough to stay where you happen

to be. Hello. What is he up to?"



Sam had gone beside a window of the bunkhouse and was listening there,

flat like a shadow. Suddenly he crouched, and was gone among the sheds.

Out of the bunk-house immediately came a procession, the buccaroos still

quiet, a careful, gradual body.



Drake closed his door and sat in the chair again. "They're escorting

that jug over here," said he. "A new move, and a big one."



He and Bolles heard them enter the next room, always without much noise

or talk--the loudest sound was the jug when they set it on the floor.

Then they seemed to sit, talking little.



"Bolles," said Drake, "the sun has set. If you want to take after Sam--"



But the door of the sitting-room opened and the Chinaman himself came

in. He left the door a-swing and spoke clearly. "Misser Dlake," said he,

"slove bloke" (stove broke).



The superintendent came out of his office, following Sam to the kitchen.

He gave no look or word to the buccaroos with their demijohn; he merely

held his cigar sidewise in his teeth and walked with no hurry through

the sitting-room. Sam took him through to the kitchen and round to a

hind corner of the stove, pointing.



"Misser Dlake," said he, "slove no bloke. I hear them inside. They going

kill you."



"That's about the way I was figuring it," mused Dean Drake.



"Misser Dlake," said the Chinaman, with appealing eyes, "I velly solly

you. They no hurtee me. Me cook."



"Sam, there is much meat in your words. Condensed beef don't class with

you. But reserve your sorrows yet a while. Now what's my policy?" he

debated, tapping the stove here and there for appearances; somebody

might look in. "Shall I go back to my office and get my guns?"



"You not goin' run now?" said the Chinaman, anxiously.



"Oh yes, Sam. But I like my gun travelling. Keeps me kind of warm. Now

if they should get a sight of me arming--no, she's got to stay here till

I come back for her. So long, Sam! See you later. And I'll have time to

thank you then."



Drake went to the corral in a strolling manner. There he roped the

strongest of the horses, and also the school-master's. In the midst of

his saddling, Bolles came down.



"Can I help you in any way?" said Bolles.



"You've done it. Saved me a bothering touch-and-go play to get you out

here and seem innocent. I'm going to drift."



"Drift?"



"There are times to stay and times to leave, Bolles; and this is a case

of the latter. Have you a real gun on now?"



Poor Bolles brought out guiltily his.22 Smith & Wesson. "I don't seem to

think of things," said he.



"Cheer up," said Drake. "How could you thought-read me? Hide Baby

Bunting, though. Now we're off. Quietly, at the start. As if we were

merely jogging to pasture."



Sam stood at his kitchen door, mutely wishing them well. The horses were

walking without noise, but Half-past Full looked out of the window.



"We're by, anyhow," said Drake. "Quick now. Burn the earth." The

horse sprang at his spurs. "Dust, you son of a gun! Rattle your hocks!

Brindle! Vamoose!" Each shouted word was a lash with his quirt. "Duck!"

he called to Bolles.



Bolles ducked, and bullets grooved the spraying snow. They rounded a

corner and saw the crowd jumping into the corral, and Sam's door empty

of that prudent Celestial.



"He's a very wise Chinaman!" shouted Drake, as they rushed.



"What?" screamed Bolles.



"Very wise Chinaman. He'll break that stove now to prove his innocence."



"Who did you say was innocent?" screamed Bolles.



"Oh, I said you were," yelled Drake, disgusted; and he gave over this

effort at conversation as their horses rushed along.





V



It was a dim, wide stretch of winter into which Drake and Bolles

galloped from the howling pursuit. Twilight already veiled the base of

Castle Rock, and as they forged heavily up a ridge through the caking

snow, and the yells came after them, Bolles looked seriously at Dean

Drake; but that youth wore an expression of rising merriment. Bolles

looked back at the dusk from which the yells were sounding, then forward

to the spreading skein of night where the trail was taking him and the

boy, and in neither direction could he discern cause for gayety.



"May I ask where we are going?" said he.



"Away," Drake answered. "Just away, Bolles. It's a healthy resort."



Ten miles were travelled before either spoke again. The drunken

buccaroos yelled hot on their heels at first, holding more obstinately

to this chase than sober ruffians would have attempted. Ten cold, dark

miles across the hills it took to cure them; but when their shootings,

that had followed over heights where the pines grew and down through

the open swales between, dropped off, and died finally away among the

willows along the south fork of the Malheur, Drake reined in his horse

with a jerk.



"Now isn't that too bad!" he exclaimed.



"It is all very bad," said Bolles, sorry to hear the boy's tone of

disappointment.



"I didn't think they'd fool me again," continued Drake, jumping down.



"Again?" inquired the interested Bolles.



"Why, they've gone home!" said the boy, in disgust.



"I was hoping so," said the school-master.



"Hoping? Why, it's sad, Bolles. Four miles farther and I'd have had them

lost."



"Oh!" said Bolles.



"I wanted them to keep after us," complained Drake. "Soon as we had a

good lead I coaxed them. Coaxed them along on purpose by a trail they

knew, and four miles from here I'd have swung south into the mountains

they don't know. There they'd have been good and far from home in the

snow without supper, like you and me, Bolles. But after all my trouble

they've gone back snug to that fireside. Well, let us be as cosey as we

can."



He built a bright fire, and he whistled as he kicked the snow from his

boots, busying over the horses and the blankets. "Take a rest," he said

to Bolles. "One man's enough to do the work. Be with you soon to share

our little cottage." Presently Bolles heard him reciting confidentially

to his horse, "Twas the night after Christmas, and all in the

house--only we are not all in the house!" He slapped the belly of his

horse Tyee, who gambolled away to the limit of his picket-rope.



"Appreciating the moon, Bolles?" said he, returning at length to the

fire. "What are you so gazeful about, father?"



"This is all my own doing," lamented the school-master.



"What, the moon is?"



"It has just come over me," Bolles continued. "It was before you got in

the stage at Nampa. I was talking. I told Uncle Pasco that I was glad no

whiskey was to be allowed on the ranch. It all comes from my folly!"



"Why, you hungry old New England conscience!" cried the boy, clapping

him on the shoulder. "How in the world could you foresee the crookedness

of that hoary Beelzebub?"



"That's all very well," said Bolles, miserably. "You would never have

mentioned it yourself to him."



"You and I, Bolles, are different. I was raised on miscellaneous

wickedness. A look at my insides would be liable to make you say your

prayers."



The school-master smiled. "If I said any prayers," he replied, "you

would be in them."



Drake looked moodily at the fire. "The Lord helps those who help

themselves," said he. "I've prospered. For a nineteen-year-old I've

hooked my claw fairly deep here and there. As for to-day--why, that's

in the game too. It was their deal. Could they have won it on their own

play? A joker dropped into their hand. It's my deal now, and I have some

jokers myself. Go to sleep, Bolles. We've a ride ahead of us."



The boy rolled himself in his blanket skillfully. Bolles heard him say

once or twice in a sort of judicial conversation with the blanket--"and

all in the house--but we were not all in the house. Not all. Not a full

house--" His tones drowsed comfortably into murmur, and then to quiet

breathing. Bolles fed the fire, thatched the unneeded wind-break (for

the calm, dry night was breathless), and for a long while watched the

moon and a tuft of the sleeping boy's hair.



"If he is blamed," said the school-master, "I'll never forgive myself.

I'll never forgive myself anyhow."



A paternal, or rather maternal, expression came over Bolles's face, and

he removed his large, serious glasses. He did not sleep very well.



The boy did. "I'm feeling like a bird," said he, as they crossed through

the mountains next morning on a short cut to the Owybee. "Breakfast will

brace you up, Bolles. There'll be a cabin pretty soon after we strike

the other road. Keep thinking hard about coffee."



"I wish I could," said poor Bolles. He was forgiving himself less and

less.



Their start had been very early; as Drake bid the school-master observe,

to have nothing to detain you, nothing to eat and nothing to pack, is a

great help in journeys of haste. The warming day, and Indian Creek well

behind them, brought Drake to whistling again, but depression sat upon

the self-accusing Bolles. Even when they sighted the Owyhee road below

them, no cheerfulness waked in him; not at the nearing coffee, nor

yet at the companionable tinkle of sleigh-bells dancing faintly upward

through the bright, silent air.



"Why, if it ain't Uncle Pasco!" said Drake, peering down through a gap

in the foot-hill. "We'll get breakfast sooner than I expected. Quick!

Give me Baby Bunting!"



"Are you going to kill him?" whispered the school-master, with a beaming

countenance. And he scuffled with his pocket to hand over his hitherto

belittled weapon.



Drake considered him. "Bolles, Bolles," said he, "you have got the

New England conscience rank. Plymouth Rock is a pudding to your heart.

Remind me to pray for you first spare minute I get. Now follow me close.

He'll be much more useful to us alive."



They slipped from their horses, stole swiftly down a shoulder of the

hill, and waited among some brush. The bells jingled unsuspectingly

onward to this ambush.



"Only hear 'em!" said Drake. "All full of silver and Merry Christmas.

Don't gaze at me like that, Bolles, or I'll laugh and give the whole

snap away. See him come! The old man's breath streams out so calm. He's

not worried with New England conscience. One, two, three" Just before

the sleigh came opposite, Dean Drake stepped out. "Morning, Uncle!" said

he. "Throw up your hands!"



Uncle Pasco stopped dead, his eyes blinking. Then he stood up in the

sleigh among his blankets. "H'm," said he, "the kid."



"Throw up your hands! Quit fooling with that blanket!" Drake spoke

dangerously now. "Bolles," he continued, "pitch everything out of the

sleigh while I cover him. He's got a shot-gun under that blanket. Sling

it out."



It was slung. The wraps followed. Uncle Pasco stepped obediently down,

and soon the chattels of the emptied sleigh littered the snow. The old

gentleman was invited to undress until they reached the six-shooter that

Drake suspected. Then they ate his lunch, drank some whiskey that he had

not sold to the buccaroos, told him to repack the sleigh, allowed him

to wrap up again, bade him take the reins, and they would use his

six-shooter and shot-gun to point out the road to him.



He had said very little, had Uncle Pasco, but stood blinking, obedient

and malignant. "H'm," said he now, "goin' to ride with me, are you?"



He was told yes, that for the present he was their coachman. Their

horses were tired and would follow, tied behind. "We're weary, too,"

said Drake, getting in. "Take your legs out of my way or I'll kick off

your shins. Bolles, are you fixed warm and comfortable? Now start her up

for Harper ranch, Uncle."



"What are you proposing to do with me?" inquired Uncle Pasco.



"Not going to wring your neck, and that's enough for the present.

Faster, Uncle. Get a gait on. Bolles, here's Baby Bunting. Much obliged

to you for the loan of it, old man."



Uncle Pasco's eye fell on the 22-caliber pistol. "Did you hold me up

with that lemonade straw?" he asked, huskily.



"Yep," said Drake. "That's what."



"Oh, hell!" murmured Uncle Pasco. And for the first time he seemed

dispirited.



"Uncle, you're not making time," said Drake after a few miles. "I'll

thank you for the reins. Open your bandanna and get your concertina.

Jerk the bellows for us."



"That I'll not!" screamed Uncle Pasco.



"It's music or walk home," said the boy. "Take your choice."



Uncle Pasco took his choice, opening with the melody of "The Last Rose

of Summer." The sleigh whirled up the Owyhee by the winter willows, and

the levels, and the meadow pools, bright frozen under the blue sky.

Late in this day the amazed Brock by his corrals at Harper's beheld

arrive his favorite, his boy superintendent, driving in with the

schoolmaster staring through his glasses, and Uncle Pasco throwing

out active strains upon his concertina. The old man had been bidden to

bellows away for his neck.



Drake was not long in explaining his need to the men. "This thing must

be worked quick," said he. "Who'll stand by me?"



All of them would, and he took ten, with the faithful Brock. Brock would

not allow Gilbert to go, because he had received another mule-kick in

the stomach. Nor was Bolles permitted to be of the expedition. To all

his protests, Drake had but the single word: "This is not your fight,

old man. You've done your share with Baby Bunting."



Thus was the school-master in sorrow compelled to see them start back

to Indian Creek and the Malheur without him. With him Uncle Pasco would

have joyfully exchanged. He was taken along with the avengers. They

would not wring his neck, but they would play cat and mouse with him and

his concertina; and they did. But the conscience of Bolles still toiled.

When Drake and the men were safe away, he got on the wagon going for the

mail, thus making his way next morning to the railroad and Boise, where

Max Vogel listened to him; and together this couple hastily took train

and team for the Malheur Agency.



The avengers reached Indian Creek duly, and the fourth day after his

Christmas dinner Drake came once more in sight of Castle Rock.



"I am doing this thing myself, understand," he said to Brock. "I am

responsible."



"We're here to take your orders," returned the foreman. But as the

agency buildings grew plain and the time for action was coming, Brock's

anxious heart spoke out of its fulness. "If they start in to--to--they

might--I wish you'd let me get in front," he begged, all at once.



"I thought you thought better of me," said Drake.



"Excuse me," said the man. Then presently: "I don't see how anybody

could 'a' told he'd smuggle whiskey that way. If the old man [Brock

meant Max Vogel] goes to blame you, I'll give him my opinion straight."



"The old man's got no use for opinions," said Drake. "He goes on

results. He trusted me with this job, and we're going to have results

now."



The drunkards were sitting round outside the ranch house. It was

evening. They cast a sullen inspection on the new-comers, who returned

them no inspection whatever. Drake had his men together and took them

to the stable first, a shed with mangers. Here he had them unsaddle.

"Because," he mentioned to Brock, "in case of trouble we'll be sure of

their all staying. I'm taking no chances now."



Soon the drunkards strolled over, saying good-day, hazarding a few

comments on the weather and like topics, and meeting sufficient answers.



"Goin' to stay?"



"Don't know."



"That's a good horse you've got."



"Fair."



But Sam was the blithest spirit at the Malheur Agency. "Hiyah!" he

exclaimed. "Misser Dlake! How fashion you come quick so?" And the

excellent Chinaman took pride in the meal of welcome that he prepared.



"Supper's now," said Drake to his men. "Sit anywhere you feel like.

Don't mind whose chair you're taking--and we'll keep our guns on."



Thus they followed him, and sat. The boy took his customary perch at the

head of the table, with Brock at his right. "I miss old Bolles," he told

his foreman. "You don't appreciate Bolles."



"From what you tell of him," said Brock, "I'll examine him more

careful."



Seeing their boss, the sparrow-hawk, back in his place, flanked with

supporters, and his gray eye indifferently upon them, the buccaroos grew

polite to oppressiveness. While Sam handed his dishes to Drake and

the new-comers, and the new-comers eat what was good before the old

inhabitants got a taste, these latter grew more and more solicitous.

They offered sugar to the strangers, they offered their beds; Half-past

Full urged them to sit companionably in the room where the fire was

burning. But when the meal was over, the visitors went to another room

with their arms, and lighted their own fire. They brought blankets from

their saddles, and after a little concertina they permitted the nearly

perished Uncle Pasco to slumber. Soon they slumbered thems





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